"We have discovered an inflammatory pathway to asthma that previously had not been recognized," says Umetsu "This pathway may be resistant to standard asthma medications such as corticosteroids."
In addition, when IL-1β production was blocked with the drug anakinra (Kineret, Swedish Orphan Biovitrum), used to treat rheumatoid arthritis, the obese mice did not develop asthma.
Although the researchers were unable to study human patients directly, they did examine lung fluid from 10 patients with lung disease who underwent bronchoalveolar lavage, a diagnostic test. Those with severe asthma had increased numbers of ILC3 cells producing IL-17 as compared with those with mild asthma or no asthma—circumstantial evidence suggesting that the mouse model may mirror what occurs in obese people who develop asthma.
"Obese people have been noted to have elevated systemic levels of IL-17 and IL-1β, particularly those who have non-allergic asthma," notes Umetsu.
The National Institutes of Health and the D. and D. Bunning Food Allergy Project funded the study.
After the study concluded, Umetsu accepted the position of principal medical director at Genentech, where he now works. He is no longer affiliated with Boston Children's Hospital.
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SOURCE Boston Children's Hospital